Great Lakes
via UMD Large Lakes Observatory

MN - Sea Grant Shipboard Science Workshop to Launch With 11 Great Lakes Educators

Duluth, Minn. — Eleven Great Lakes educators will cruise Lake Superior from the Port of Duluth-Superior to the French River in Minnesota and the Amnicon River in Wisconsin this summer to gain hands-on freshwater science experience, curricula and resources that they can take home and use in their classrooms and other teaching environments.

The educators are part of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Superior Shipboard Science Workshop and will be aboard Duluth’s Vista Queen and the University of Minnesota Duluth, Large Lakes Observatory, Research Vessel (R/V) Blue Heron from June 27 through July 1, 2022.

"Our goals for the educators include helping them gain an understanding of Great Lakes water quality and microplastics, getting hands-on experience sampling and analyzing water, and helping to foster awareness and appreciation for research and natural resource management," said Marte Kitson, workshop leader and extension educator with Minnesota Sea Grant.

This year’s Shipboard Science Workshop includes two educators from Illinois, three from Minnesota, one from Ohio, and five from Wisconsin who said they want to gain a deeper understanding of the types, abundance, and effects of microplastics on Lake Superior water quality and the lake’s food web. MNSG Undergraduate Extension Education Intern Megan Gilles will accompany this year’s workshop to gain professional experience.

“[Educators] will learn how to collect samples from the water, sediments, and sand on the beach. They will learn how to process the samples to separate possible microplastic particles using a microscope, and they will use the FTIR [Fourier Transform Infrared] spectrometer to find out if the particles are really plastic particles or not," said Lorena Rios Mendoza, workshop lead researcher and professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Mendoza studies the concentration of toxic compounds adsorbed on plastic particles, sediments, and tissues samples from the Oceans and the Great Lakes.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to ocean and Great Lakes aquatic life, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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